Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Brown Health Care Plan

Bet you didn't know soon-to-be Senator Brown from Mass had one. Neither did I and probably neither does he but that got your attention huh?

I really don't know anything about Mr. Brown right now other than the media is fawning over him (OK Monica Crowley on Imus was anyway). I suggest some caution for a bit here. People are already talking about him for 2012. Come on!

He may be handsome and the greatest thing since the Red Sox won the World Series (they did win sometime in the last decade right?) but I'm not sure we need to crown him prince of anything just yet.

Overall I'm glad he won if for no other reason that it sends yet another strong message to everybody that people in general my not be exactly thrilled with how things are going and more specifically how Obama is handling things. I'll include this quote from Imus this morning and leave it at that. "He's doing the best he can. But he's not even Jimmy Carter good."

If Brown's election does nothing more than send that message OK. But if it also gets DC pols to stop and take a breath over health care, then good again.

I know we need something but I'm not so sure anybody anywhere really has a good handle on what that something is.

I'd suggest reading this column in today's NY Times as a starter.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Unkindest Cut of All

This post is rated D,S and V for suggestive dialogue, sex and violence. If none of those offend or bother you, read on.

I write frequently as a freelancer for a local Ag Magazine, Ozarks Farm & Neighbor and as a reader also my favorite column is by Jerry Crownover. Think Baxter Black but not as poetic. I got to meet Jerry at a writer's dinner late last year. I hope this is the kind of story he would write.

We begin ...

We have two Holstein calves that I call freezer beef; actually we sometimes call the calves Dumb and Dumber but they will end up in our freezer someday.

It is common practice to take male cows and render them male-less early in their short happy lives. We have always chosen the banding method. Simply put, you place a fat green rubber band around the male-bag-thing (OK scrotum) and after a few days the bag dries up and falls off. It only hurts the calf for a little while and since you don't cut them; there is no bleeding, and little chance of infection. We've been doing this on our male cows and sheep for years and it almost always works.

Earlier this year my wife and I banded Dumb and Dumber. I usually restrain the small calf and my wife finagles the rubber band around ... well you know where.

Fast forward to this past week.

My son-in-law the Montana cattle rancher was visiting with his wife - my eldest daughter and helping with chores and working with our horses (another story for a future post) and we both noticed Dumb was behaving rather affectionately toward my wife's old gelding horse. I won't provide details other than to say it looked unusual.

Dumb is rather friendly to people and can easily be touched. Caleb walked up behind him and reached between his legs to feel and lo and behold he still had a - caution sex word follows - testicle. He did not have a bag for it, it was just under the skin in the general area where those things reside normally.

Caleb asked if I wanted him to "cut" him - cut being the euphemism for - sex word again - castration. You get your dog "fixed" or "neutered" by a citi-fied vet but in the country people just say they "cut him".

For various reasons, you do not need to keep a bull around, even if he is only half a bull and a friendly one at that.

Caleb lassoed him, then bull-dogged him around the head to get him to flop to the ground at which point I jumped in to hold the rope on this 500 pound or so "half-bull" while Caleb did his best rodeo stuff to tie up his legs before he could do any damage to himself or either of us.

Prior to this Caleb had prepped his tools which mostly consisted of a very sharp kitchen knife (more on this later) and some iodine to pre and post treat the wound that was about to ensue.

My job was to continue holding down the big boy while Caleb proceeded to remove the remaining male part. Let's just say I'm sure it didn't feel all that great for the cow and it was all I could do to hold the rope and keep him on the ground. My daughter stepped in to help at one point. She got right in there with Caleb and held something while Caleb did the final cutting. You can't live on a cattle ranch in Montana (or anywhere for that matter) and be squeemish about these things.

After an incision, removal of one male organ part, some clamping, some iodine and a powder called Blood Stop, we let him go. He did not get up immediately and when he did, he was not too peppy. We watched him for awhile to make sure the bleeding had stopped.

The knife has returned to our kitchen although I'm not sure it will ever be used for anything involving food again.

Post-script: The morning after the procedure my wife noticed Dumb was laying down in the way cows don't typically lay down. I donned my muck boots and traipsed out to check on him fearing the worst - that he had started bleeding and died overnight. But as I approached the boy - now officially 100% steer, he got up and began walking. I guess he was still sore.

Post-post-script: Lest anyone think this qualified as cruelty to animals I'd like to point out that our steers get plenty of food and water, sunlight and are free to roam most of our forty acres until the day they end up in our freezer. Most beef is produced or at least finished in large confinement operations.

What's Wal Mart?

I was packing up some old dishes today and decided to use one of our collection of "Wal Mart" bags as padding. How come we don't say plastic bags or grocery bags etc? These have become so ubiquitous.

I imagine a time 50 or 100 years from now when someone finds one of these buried somewhere (like disposable diapers, I'm told these bags take decades to decompose and will likely outlast their namesake store) and reads the large Wal Mart name and asks a friend, "What's Wal Mart?" To which the friend replies, "I don't know, I guess they made plastic bags."

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Man on the Wire Might Get Loud

In the last week or so I've watched two pretty good documentaries" Man on Wire and It Might Get Loud.

Man on Wire is about Philippe Petit's high-wire walk between the two World Trade Center towers in 1974. I was struck by several things: of course seeing the two towers long before their demise and was reminded of my own visit to the top of one of them (I can't recall which one) in the late 70s. What affected me most was how single-minded Petit was in reaching this absurd goal that somehow he pulled off.

Personally I've never liked re-enactments but the way they handled it in this movie was better than most. Kind of mysterious.

I was amazed at the amount of archival material they could pull together of old film, newspapers etc. to help tell the story. Very watchable.

Last night I watched It Might Get Loud - again a different sort of doc about three guitarists - Jimmy Page, Edge from U2 and Jack White.

Again I was amazed at the archival stuff - more about Jimmy Page than anybody else but overall his story was more interesting to me. He's aged much better than Robert Plant and still seems to have the guitar chops. I'm no fan of Jack White's typical rock style but I have to admit he is one very talented and versatile young man. The interviews delve into his interest and influence by early blues-men.

The concept overall is clever. But I doubt if the average person could have pulled it off. The producer of "Loud", Davis Guggenheim, also did Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" so I imagine having produced an Academy Award winner, people take or return your phone calls.

I like U2 but not sure I'd put Edge in the same league as Jimmy Page and while I've noted Jack White is supremely talented, I don't think he's near the guitarist Page is/was. But White has many years to carve out his own legacy. I guess the idea was to get the icon/mentor/elder statesman, one currently famous musician and the still up-and coming (lots of young people will say that he is already here) rock star and put them together and see what happens.

Easily watchable and worth the time. The opening credits are classy.